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Book Review
Imrie/Risley Paint Formulas
Imrie/Risley Miniatures Colors
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

I hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane/history lesson. If you have insights or corrections, please post them.

Introduction, Imrie/Risley Miniatures
Imrie/Risley Miniatures, or simply I/R as we hobby-hip old-timers know them as, was one of several metal figure companies that filled the void of decent specialized figures.

I/R Miniatures were prominent in the Squadron Shop magazine the Squadron from its first issue in 1970. I/R contributed to the magazine with original artwork by Mr. Risley; much was black-and-white line art, plus full color painting and the plates that were packed with the figures and illustrated magazines. Mr. Risley even penned and illustrated how-to articles for Squadron, i.e., shading of uniforms.

I/R was known and regarded for the dynamic poses of the subjects, especially horses. They had over a dozen categories of subjects and also issued category sub-series, such as 26 D-Day U.S. Paratroopers and a 57mm antitank gun!

Color me Reminiscent
Another thing I/R was known for was their own brand of enamel paint, I/R Original Military Colors: 36 colors including 5 metallics, a gloss, a metal primer and its thinner, and a glaze. They advertised that with those colors 143 distinct national colors could be mixed. I always liked them for both brushing and airbrushing. I/R acknowledges they created this line of paints in collaboration with modelers and, specifically, Mr. J.L. Campbell of the Squadron Shop and Mr. Sid Chivers of Scale Modeler Magazine.

In 1972, again in cooperation with Squadron Shop, this 16-page booklet of color formulas and applications for I/R Colors was published (with the location of five separate Squadron Shops in 5 states listed on the rear cover!).

I/R not only provided formulas for the scores of colors, they also touched upon how colors were mixed, how they might change with curing and age, a chart for mixing highlights and shading, reflected light, prototype color theory, e.g., the true color of olive drab, applying the paint, and thinning.

The color series presented are:
    - Armor Colors of WW II
    - French Aircraft Colors
    - German Air Force Colors
    (including RLM 00 Waterlight colorless glaze)
    - Italian Aircraft Colors
    - Japanese Aircraft Colors
    (including Violet N9)
    - Miscellaneous
    - R.A.F. Aircraft Colors
    (including Mediterranean dark and light blue)
    - Russian Aircraft Colors
    - U.S. Aircraft Colors

Final Thoughts
My small booklet is stained with spilled and spattered paint and glues. It was printed on heavy paper and has held up well. Usable I/R Original Military Colors may be hard to find now, and their pigments and such may differ from the mainstream paints of today. However, I still experiment with the formulas and they create colors that satisfy my quest "for the perfect (fill in your favorite controversial color here)".

If you can find one of these booklets you ought to acquire it. It is both an interesting window to the past as well as a brief useful guide to the theory of color.

Further I/R History
Forty years ago there were not very many model plastic figures available. Those that were available were often no better than today’s soft plastic toys offered bagged by the dozens in grocery store aisles. While there were some injection figure companies -- Airfix, Almark and Historex being a few -- before the age of resin figures if you wanted accurate, authentic model figures, you had to look to metal castings. These were usually pewter and, often, good ol’ toxic lead, although I/R did not use straight lead (see below).

Imrie/Risley Miniatures was one of several metal figure companies that filled the void of decent specialized figures. Other big names in the business were:

    • Almark (I know they made styrene figures – can anyone clarify if they made metal ones?)
    • Bugle and Guidon
    • Cavalier Miniatures
    • Monogram
    • Old Guard
    • Squadron/Rubin Miniatures
    • Valiant Miniatures
    • Vallance Miniatures

Imrie/Risley Miniatures
Imrie/Risley Miniatures are highly regarded cast metal historical figures. I/R trace their beginning to the 1950s when William “Bill” Imrie founded Imrie Custom Miniatures in Ballston Spa, New York. Mr. Imrie sculpted and cast on commission military miniatures in 54mm and 60mm for museums and private clients. [1]

His wife Helen, an artist, joined in the endeavor. She kindly provided your reviewer with further history:

    Bill started his custom work on Long Island and continued it for three years in Greenwich Village in New York City.

    And today, all of our new castings are lead free, but we still have stock containing some lead-tin mixtures. They were never all lead, as that would be too soft for a decent casting.

When in 1964 Clyde A. Risley partnered with the firm, the company was renamed Imrie/Risley Miniatures. [3]

. The I/R Miniatures’ team used their combined knowledge of military history, uniforms and human and equine anatomies in the manufacture of their military miniatures that was seldom seen before; making I/R Miniatures the most highly regarded museum quality military miniature company in America.

So highly regarded were Imrie/Risley Miniatures that they were contracted by the Franklin Mint to produce the first pewter figures offered by the Frankin Mint. A stunning group of thirteen figures that represented the original thirteen states for America’s Bicentennial.

I/R also consulted with The Squadron Shop, modelers and entities to create new and accurate miniatures. I/R Miniatures’ line of models eventually numbered over a hundred figures in at least 13 series. I counted over 160 in the Summer 1974 issue of The Squadron Shop magazine the Squadron before I tired of the count. The subjects include:

    15th - 17th Centuries

    18th & 19th Century Naval

    19th Century Conflicts

    76 mm Scale K-Series

    American Civil War

    American Revolution

    Ancient World

    Eastern Warfare

    French & Indian War

    Literary Characters

    Middle Ages

    Modern Warfare

    Napoleonic Wars

Both Messer’s Imrie and Risley have passed away. The store was closed in 2011 although Mrs. Imrie continues to sell via internet and mail-order. I/R Miniatures can still be found in hobby shops around the world.

Source and Reference

[1]. Vintage castings.com. Bill Imrie, Founder of Imrie/Risley Military Miniatures, dies. http://vintagecastings.com/?p=82. 2008.

[2]. Mrs. Helen Imrie. Personal letter to the author. 9 June, 2012.

[3], [4]. Vintage castings.com. Bill Imrie, Founder of Imrie/Risley Military Miniatures, dies. http://vintagecastings.com/?p=82. 2008.
Highs: Interesting formulas and paint information.
Lows: The paint colors of then don't always match the paint colors of today.
Verdict: It is both an interesting window to the past as well as a brief useful guide to the theory of color.
  Scale: Other
  Related Link: Imrie/Risley Miniatures - Saratoga Soldier Shop
  PUBLISHED: Jun 07, 2012

About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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